Who we are

Our ‘why’

To share the wonder of wetlands so they become valued as unique, vibrant and essential community assets.

Our approach

Restoring wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin and improving the management of wetlands throughout the catchment by linking community, science, business and government.

We believe in the power of relationships.

When we build relationships between people, business, government and community, we create a shared vision that enable our wetlands to be protected and restored. By investing in relationships, we engender trust between all those we bring together. It is trust that is the bedrock upon which long-term commitment, informed action and collaborative partnerships are based.

Our values are core to everyone who has a role to play in our organisation, whether they be Board members, staff, researchers or volunteers. They guide how we interact, accomplish our work and realise our goals.

  • Innovation – creative thinking encourages opportunities.
  • Accountability and transparency – responsible and open decision making, and sound financial management.
  • Equity – appreciation of environmental, social and economic situations across the Murray-Darling Basin.
  • Integrity – responsive and reliable in all our actions and respectful of community opinions and issues.
  • Community focussed – engaging and empowering our communities in environmental solutions.
  • Commitment – a community-based organisation committed to wetland restoration.

Our Board is experienced, with people drawn from many different disciplines coming together to share their knowledge and learn from each other. We have at various times, enjoyed the contribution from hydrologists, lawyers, ecologists, irrigators, farmers, horticulturists, educators, botanists, water managers, economists, financial analysts, Aboriginal Traditional Owners, engineers and social scientists. Staff are also experienced in ecology, water management, negotiation and the many people skills required for a successful project. This capacity of the Group represents decades of corporate knowledge that is generously given.

Our Board members are trusted because they are familiar faces in the local communities and disciplinary groups they are a part of. Over time, these networks have become far reaching, with individual members of the Group strategically involved in most of the Government water related committees and advisory groups across the Basin. We are not an advocacy group in the sense of having a political agenda, but we advocate instead for our approach to problem solving.

The Group has survived 25 years – a period of water reform turmoil, constant government changes and restructures. Our existence continues because we are valued by community and government as an independent source of advice, support and initiative. This trust in the Group has had the added benefit of providing the Group with space in which to be innovative – to learn by doing and to risk failure.

The Working Group sits between community and government, and is an independent builder of on-ground projects that achieve multiple and negotiated outcomes. The Group does not impose actions, but will steer towards acceptable, workable solutions. We do what we say we are going to do, and we do it through collaboration and co-operation. We work directly with landholders, seek common ground and use the best available knowledge/science to make shared decisions. This approach requires us to be adaptive and flexible, which means that if things change, then we can change too. It is this capacity to creatively resolve ‘wicked’ problems in a win- win-win (community – government – environment – Aboriginal/cultural) way that underpins our success.

“The life of rivers is never done with, but endures as something miraculous. Nothing else lives if rivers do not – it is they that give life.”

Homer Reith, Canto 50: Sylvania, The Garden of Earth

Our history

The NSW Murray Wetlands Working Group Inc. was formed in 1992, upon recognition by NSW Government of the continuing loss and degradation of wetlands in the catchment of the River Murray in NSW. The mission of the Working Group was to rehabilitate degraded wetlands and improve the management of wetlands throughout the Murray and Lower Murray Darling catchments in NSW, by linking community involvement with best scientific understanding.

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Board of Directors

Our Board members are trusted because they are familiar faces in the local communities and disciplinary groups they are a part of. We are not an advocacy group in the sense of having a political agenda, but we advocate instead for our approach to problem solving.

Ian Davidson, Chair

Ian has worked over nearly 40 years in government in NE Victoria as a field ecologist, for an NGO in southern NSW working with farmers on habitat management and restoration and currently runs a small, independent environmental company Regeneration Solutions in Wangaratta. Ian believes strongly in working with land managers to determine an agreed purpose for managing aquatic and terrestrial habitats and applying practical knowledge from experience and science to achieve that purpose.

Kathy Ridge, Vice Chair

Kathy has a long association with wetlands and water quality and in 1999, as Executive Officer of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, she began to take a more active interest in inland wetlands and rivers, through member groups Inland Rivers Network and the Coasts and Wetlands Society. After working at the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Kathy focussed building on her legal experience and expertise, working with the Chief Judge of the Land and Environment Court of NSW, prior to establishing her own firm.

Nick Lilley

Nick is a corporate finance professional with over a decade of experience in raising capital for utility scale renewable energy projects in Australia and internationally. Nick has experience in the impact investment sector, having worked on the development and capital raising for the Murray Darling Basin Balanced Water Fund and for Lismore Community Solar. Nick is a previous director of the Bjarne K Dahl Trust and the Victorian Indigenous Nursery Cooperative. Nick is focused on the for purpose, renewable energy and conservation sectors.

James Forbes

James is currently CEO at the Jane Goodall Institute Australia. Prior to this he held senior marketing and fundraising roles with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation, Nature Conservation Trust of NSW and WWF-Australia. Along with operating his own consulting business, Forbes Philanthropy & Marketing, James is a Senior Associate with Global Philanthropic, a leader in philanthropic fundraising with offices in Europe, Asia, Oceania and North America. James’ connection to the Murray-Darling River links back to the 19th century when his great-great grandfather owned Ned’s Corner Station and in the 20th century, his family owned Lake Victoria Station.

Judy Frankenberg

Judy is a farmer near Howlong (NSW) and runs a Red Angus beef cattle stud, a flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep and is an environmental consultant. Employed for several years as a research scientist at The Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, Judy’s expertise lies in floodplain and wetland research and management. For nine years Judy was a member of the Murray Catchment Management Committee (precursor to the Murray Catchment Management Board). She is a member of a number of other committees related to natural resource management and is on the committee of the West Hume Landcare Group.

David Harriss

David Harriss has over 25 years in surface water and groundwater policy, planning and management in Australia, particularly in the state of New South Wales and the Murray-Darling River Basin. During this time David was responsible for water sharing plans developed throughout New South Wales and for developing arrangements for New South Wales participation in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Adrian Wells

Adrian Wells was born in England and migrated to Australia as a child in 1957. Educated in Melbourne, Adrian first worked in Mildura in agricultural, horticultural and irrigation industries. He has worked in research and extension; the media; community development; rural education; rural counselling and Local Government. Adrian retired in 2015 but has continued with some part-time work in natural resource management.
Adrian is the author of “Against the Flow: How the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group pioneered the restoration of wetlands along the Murray and Lower Darling Rivers.”

John Pettigrew

John is a retired fruit grower and farmer with over 50 years’ experience in horticulture and irrigation industries in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley. Directorships in the publicly listed SPC Ltd., Goulburn Murray Water and the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority have provided experience and understanding of the socio- economic and environmental tensions in the achievement of regional sustainability. John is involved in many local and National environmental organisations including Landcare and the Al Gores Climate Reality Project.

Our team

Deb Nias

Deborah has led the pioneering work of the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group for over 20 years. She holds a PhD in carbon dynamics of floodplain wetlands from Monash University, is a Churchill Fellow and Peter Cullen Trust Fellow. Her experience includes managing environmental water, delivering on-ground projects and project management, Board governance, wetland ecology, community engagement, government liaison and management of multi-discipline teams. She believes good science with genuine community engagement should underpin natural resource management.

📞 0417 287 651
✉️ deb.nias@mdwwg.com.au

Ali Borrell

Ali Borrell has coordinated and delivered environmental monitoring programs in the Mid-Murray for a range of wetland systems. She has been with the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group since 2018 and assists with the delivery of environmental water to wetland sites in NSW.

📞 0422 751 060
✉️ ali.borrell@mdwwg.com.au

Sarah Ning

Sarah Ning is an Environmental Water Manager at the MDWWG, and has been with the group since 2012. She has 15 years’ experience in wetland management and community engagement, and coordinates the delivery of environmental water programs to wetlands in northern Victoria.

📞 0427 376 157
✉️ sarah.ning@mdwwg.com.au

Patron, Advisors and Observers

Howard Jones

Howard was Chair of the Group from 1996-2017 and now Patron of the Group. His main occupation is as a viticulturist and he has an extensive understanding and knowledge of the irrigation industry. After spending much of his leisure time either on or near the water, Howard has witnessed the degradation of many wetland and floodplain systems. The decline of these ecosystems prompted Howard to become a pro-active community member and take an interest in the future management of wetlands and floodplains.

Ben Gawne

Dr Ben Gawne is a former Board Member and now Observer. Ben is currently Manager of Science and Evaluation at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. His team is responsible for making the best available information available to support implementation of the Basin Plan. Prior to this, Ben was Professor of Environmental Flows within the Institute of Applied Ecology at the University of Canberra. From 2002 to 2017 Ben was Director of the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre, where he undertook research on the restoration of rivers and wetlands in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Bruce Donald

Bruce Donald AM BA LLB, ANU; LLM Harvard advises the Group on legal matters. Bruce has practised for over 45 years in commercial and public law, media and environment law and indigenous rights. He has been partner of two leading commercial firms, advised indigenous landowners and was chief lawyer at the ABC. He has served as an Australian Heritage Commissioner and as Chair of the Environmental Defenders Office. In 2005, Bruce was made a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the law and the public interest.

Rene Woods

Rene is a Nari Nari man from southwest New South Wales with a long involvement in securing rights to Land and Water for Aboriginal people including as Chair of Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations. Rene advises the Group on how to best engage with Traditional Owners in ways that are culturally appropriate. He is working at The Nature Conservancy as the Project Manager for Gayini Nimmie-Caira in southern New South Wales. He grew up on the Murrumbidgee where the river was always central to his family, his community and their way of life.

Mike Maher

Dr Mike Maher is a former Board Member and now advises the Group on project development and engagement in the Northern Basin. Mike retired from the NSW Government following a 40 year career spanning research, policy and management of inland wetlands. Mike brings to the MDWWG a deep understanding of Government, of environmental water management and of the rivers and wetlands of the northern Basin. He believes strongly in the value of partnerships for the successful conservation of natural resources.

Our partners

Trentham Estate (NSW) continues its commitment to water conservation and wetland restoration, through a new partnership with the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group Ltd.

Trentham Estate’s River Retreat label, now vegan friendly, will proudly continue Trentham’s dedication to corporate responsibility – whereby every bottle purchased of River Retreat wine will result in a donation towards the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group. With many great projects currently underway in the far-west region of NSW, the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group will benefit greatly from these ongoing funds.

“We are thrilled to be able to contribute to the restoration of our precious river system and we are confident that the Murray Darling Wetlands Working Group will make a real difference within the river region.” says winemaker Anthony Murphy.